A diary that provides a unique glimpse of Civil War life is fading fast, but an online voting contest could help Lynchburg College students and Historic Sandusky staff extend its life.
The diary belonged to Adeline “Ada” Lawrence Hutter, who lived in the Sandusky house during the Civil War. She was 17 when Union General David Hunter seized the home for his army’s headquarters during the 1864 Battle of Lynchburg.
Thanks to an application prepared by Kelly Childress ’13, ’16 MA, the diary is in the running for up to $5,000 in conservation money in Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifact contest. Sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums, the contest allows members of the public to vote for artifacts to receive grant funding.
Voting begins January 15, and each person can vote daily at www.vatop10artifacts.org. To vote, find “Young Woman’s 1864 Diary” in the list of entries, enter your email address, click “Vote,” then follow the directions to confirm your email address.
“Ada’s diary reveals the thoughts, feelings, and reservations of a young white woman coming into womanhood during a turbulent time of uncertainty,” according to Childress’s nomination form. “Her diary contains excerpts of poetry, autographs, her own personal musings, notes on life in Lynchburg and other prominent families in the area, her disdain toward the Union soldiers that commandeered her home and threatened her family, and her growing concerns for her dear brother who was being held as a prisoner of war. …
“Ada’s diary remains one of the only artifacts that provide details on how the Civil War came to affect Sandusky and the Hutter Family,”
Before the diary was donated to the Historic Sandusky Foundation, it had been placed near a coal-burning stove that burned portions of the book. Some of the pages are loose, and the cover is no longer attached. “This artifact is in an actively deteriorating condition, with the paper becoming fragile and brittle with age, and showing foxing of the pages and fading of Ada’s ink and pen writing,” the application says. Without further conservation, the pages could deteriorate so much that it can no longer be studied.
Laura Meisner ’17 transcribed part of the diary last year as part of a Westover Honors class taught by history professor Dr. Adam Dean. Some pages, though, were too fragile or faded to transcribe without additional work.
If the diary wins the Endangered Artifacts contest, the money would help pay for conservation and transcription. The diary could go on display for a limited time as well.
Ten unique artifacts from across the state and spanning Virginia’s extensive history from the 1700s to 20th century were chosen for this year’s contest. Conservation awards total $19,000, thanks to a gift from the Blanford Rees Foundation, and the two organizations whose artifacts receive the most votes will receive $5,000 and $4,000 respectively.
To vote for the Ada Hutter diary, visit www.vatop10artifacts.org daily from January 15 through January 24.
Lynchburg College owns and operates Historic Sandusky in partnership with the Historic Sandusky Foundation. The historic site serves as a learning laboratory for students interested in history and archaeology.